Frequently Asked Questions
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Should I live off campus?
We encourage students to live on campus when it is available; however there is not enough on-campus housing to accommodate the entire student population. Living off-campus comes with more responsibilities than living on-campus, as well as certain freedoms. Over 75% of students at the University live off-campus and Off-Campus Student Services is here to assist in finding housing as well as making the adjustment to off-campus living as smooth as possible.
When should I start looking for housing off campus?
Some of the larger apartment complexes will start pre-leasing as early as September for the following academic year. Many students will continue to look at housing options well into the spring semester. Off-Campus Student Services offers 4 off-campus housing fairs each academic year to provide students a convenient way to explore off-campus housing options. If you are looking for a single-unit rental (i.e. a house in a neighborhood), most options are not advertised for lease until late spring or early summer.
How do I find housing off-campus?
There are lots of great options to choose from! We would recommend visiting The Daily Gamecock’s housing locator to explore apartments and houses for rent in the surrounding area. The site provides location, pricing, floor plans, and amenities about each listing. If you are considering living in an apartment complex that caters to students, check out our partners in off-campus living page. Feel free to stop by the Off-Campus Student Services office to discuss your options in person with a member of our team.
There are so many options! How do I begin my housing search?
We recommend that students spend time thinking about their personal preferences before beginning to visit properties. Consider using these Steps to find your ideal off-campus home(hyperlink to next steps document) for beginning your housing search and narrowing down your choices.
What if I am not from the Columbia Area?
While we recommend that leasers visit any property they are thinking of renting before signing the lease, we understand that students and parents often live far away and are not able to visit Columbia to view the property. In such a case, we recommend that you do as much online research as you can about the complex or house in question. There is no replacement for seeing the property in person, but reviews and accounts from others can give you a good picture of how well the space will match your needs.
Do I have to sign a 12 month lease?
The lease terms will indicate how long your lease is. Most apartments/houses will require a 12 month lease while others may allow you to sign a shorter term such as 6-9 months. Many students who do not plan on living there the entire time will look for someone to take over their lease for the remaining months of the term (called a sublease).
What if I am a college freshman and I want to live off campus?
All first-year students are required to live on-campus during their first academic year (two semesters). An appeal may be filed with University Housing in order to live at home with parents if you live locally. Students that live on campus their freshman year typically get better grades.
Can Off-Campus Student Services recommend a place to live off campus?
Off-Campus Student Services can provide students with resources to find off-campus housing and the information necessary to make an informed decision. We do not, however, recommend specific housing or make referrals for housing off-campus. It is important to determine your budget and preferences including location, amenities, transportation and atmosphere in order for you to find the best housing fit for you.
What is the safest place to live off-campus?
While specific incidents of crime may vary, Columbia is an urban environment, and campus is located in the middle of downtown. Off-Campus Student Services cannot make recommendations regarding where to live, however USC Law Enforcement partners with RAIDS (Regional Analysis and Information Data Sharing) Online, an online crime-mapping tool, to show crime activity in the surrounding area so you can make informed decisions about staying safe. View the local RAIDS online crime map to find out more. As well, USC Law Enforcement offers the RAVE Guardian Safety App, which can alert them or 911, leave anonymous tips, and more, at the push of a button. Students must be vigilant about their personal safety, no matter where they live.
What if I don’t know anyone and need to find a roommate?
We provide a message board for students looking for a roommate. You will find posts from students that have a room and need a roommate as well as students that need a roommate and a place to live. The message boards are used daily with hundreds of posts each semester. Most apartment complexes that offer individual leasing will provide assistance with the roommate matching process.
What if I am moving off-campus mid-year or looking for someone to sublease my place?
We provide a message board for students looking to sublease a room and students looking for someone to sublease their room. The message boards are used daily with hundreds of posts each semester.
Does the Student Code of Conduct apply to me off campus?
Yes, the Student Code of Conduct applies to all students enrolled in the University whether on or off campus. If you are enrolled and violate the code of conduct off campus, you could be held accountable on campus through the Office of Student Conduct as well as off-campus by local police.
What if I have a conflict with my roommate?
You are encouraged to try to work all conflicts out before seeking outside sources. If this is not possible, the University Office of Student Conduct offers Mediation Services.
Can I purchase a meal plan if I live off campus?
University of South Carolina Dining Services does offer meal plans to commuter students. Please visit their website for more information on pricing and availability.
Where can I park on campus?
Commuter students have several options for parking on campus – commuter lots, parking garages, or street/meter parking. University lots and garages require specific parking permits. Visit Parking Services to learn more.
What if I don’t have a car?
There are places within walking distance to campus that are available for rent but that does limit your options. Most of students do not live within walking distance to campus. There are also many apartment complexes that provide a free shuttle service to campus during set hours. It is important to note that these shuttle services are operated separately from the University and are not a guaranteed service. This means if the shuttle needs to be taken offline for service they do not need to provide an alternative for students.
Can I use my financial aid to pay for my off-campus housing?
Students may use their financial aid to pay for housing. Once students apply their financial aid to pay their tuition and fees, the remaining balance of aid will be reimbursed to them. It is then up to the student to responsibly manage that lump sum and pay their bills each month. Students should be prepared to cover first month’s rent, any up-front fees, and security deposits out of their own pocket, just in case these are due before the financial aid refund is received. For more information, please visit Student Financial Aid.
What is a Guarantor?
In the majority of cases, in order to sign a lease, landlords will require the renter to have an income of at least three times the monthly rent. In the case of the many students who cannot meet this requirement, a guarantor or co-signer that can is usually required. A guarantor is any parent, guardian, or trusted adult (age requirements will vary) that can co-sign the lease to assure that the payments and fees will be made in the case that the leaser cannot pay. If you are new to leasing, make sure to have a willing guarantor available.
How much is rent and what else do I have to pay?
Rent in Columbia and the surrounding area can vary greatly. The closer you live to campus the higher the rent will likely be. Some rent payments will cover everything from utilities to high-speed internet to lawn services while others may cover none of those. It is important when looking for a place to live to clarify what the rent payment covers.
The Financial Literacy Program offers a one-hour consultation for students that are moving off-campus. This consultation covers the added financial responsibilities that come with moving out of the residence halls and how to budget wisely to save money while living off-campus. For more information, please contact the Student Success Center at 777-1000.